I told the Plain Jack story today and told the parents that the story was for the children and it was up to them to work out the lesson. It might sound patronising when written down, but when I’m dressed in character and talking with families I am able to meet everyone with an absolutely unguarded eye to make a connection based on absolute equality. I’m aiming to invite the adults to listen with consideration and not just switch off and daydream while their children are being entertained.
I have seen many children’s entertainers and they often appeal to children’s need to join together with laughter and get giggly and excited and make jokes for the adults at the children’s expense with the children’s innocence protecting them from getting the joke and being hurt. I think that’s a cheap way to get a laugh and though it does seem to work from the outside – adults see children enjoying themselves and have a laugh too, it is shallow, pointless and quickly forgotten.
I used to find it hard performing to children and adults and I could only look at the children in the eye, I was a bit frightened of being judged I suppose. I think I thought that most adults understand and know more than me, so while I can meet a child’s eye with equality I am on my guard with adults. I’m not comfortable with making a joke out of the children, so I have found a different and dare I say (yes, I dare!) better way. I find it easier to hide behind a costume that exaggerates my features for little eyes and allows adults to accept me as a daft looking character instead of feeling threatened by me being a know all.
I know that deep in our hearts we are all children and if I am kind and make it clear that I won’t embarrass anyone I can get the adults united with their children to listen on an equal basis. That’s when the real magic happens. I do involve the adults, but I’ve found a way to do it that allows them to enjoy doing whatever I get them to do and feel proud of their efforts rather than feeling too proud to condescend themselves. Does that make sense?
So today’s moment of magic was in the first group telling the Plain Jack story and saying the last bit about the 2 horses, one with a great talent who didn’t use it and the one with a little talent who used it all. I almost got emotional, I may have even gulped – I could really feel the empathy energy flowing out from the listeners as they all obviously felt themselves to be like Plain Jack and proud of his lifetime of trying hard.
In the second session there were 2 men at the back who were listening so hard and openly it was truly beautiful. The sessions were free to the locality which is quite deprived. I felt as if they got the story, not just for themselves now, but also remembering how they must have been told such stories as a child and how that made them feel then and also feeling for their own children being told to be glad of their humble backgrounds as then all their achievements will be down to their own efforts.
That’s what all the best stories do, they reward goodness, effort and standing up for the oppressed and frown upon pride, anger, following the herd. We are all equal at the end of the day, we all have our own learning journeys to go on and we will make mistakes along the way, but it is what we learn from our failures that makes us the ultimate human we have it within us to be.
I continue to enjoy learning how to be better through my life and I am grateful for my upbringing and the path I have taken that I have the opportunity to feel that wonderful life changing empathy on an almost daily basis. Either in helping my daughters enjoy applying their knowledge, moments of group anticipation – I lead singing at playgroup and we sing this sleeping bunnies song and I can usually manage a moment of absolute silent anticipation while all the children wait to… WAKE UP BUNNIES!!! and hop about, and then in moments from when I’m storytelling and I can feel the audience have gone on a little journey with me and allowed their minds to be opened just a little bit.
From the outside I might appear to be a crazy lady entertaining kids as I can’t get a proper job, but on the inside I am deeply thoughtful about the change I hope to make to people’s perception of themselves which is the most rewarding reward I could ever imagine. I do believe there is only one right way to be, and I know that thought is controversial, but there truly is only one path for all of us. We can only follow our true, selfless empathetic path by always making decisions that factor in the consequences of our actions for everyone else and amending our actions if they hurt anyone. Modern society is geared up to value extrinsic reward, so we are encouraged to believe that any path we choose is right as that is our choice and we know best for us, but if we value our needs to be greater than the needs of others and we value money and status over empathy/unconditional love we will find ourselves on a path alright, but it might not be the best path to make us a better, more understanding empathetic being. It’s never too late to get back on the right path, not to please anyone else or win approval, just for yourself. If life is a competition (I don’t think it is, I think it’s a game you only win by sticking to the rules) then believing we are in competition with anyone but ourselves is a delusion.